Local and Community News
Portable HIV Test Draws Praise and Concern
May 30, 2003
A rapid and portable HIV test that health officials in Seattle begin using today is raising concern about how to help people who may soon learn, in a public setting, that they have HIV. The local health department plans to use the new test, which can yield results in less than a half-hour, in gay bathhouses and sex clubs. "Traditionally people have found their results out in clinical settings or from people who can provide immediate emotional support or connection to outreach services," said Fred Swanson, executive director for Gay City Health Project, a leading gay men's health organization.
The portability and speed of the new test, Swanson said, raise the prospect of people finding out they are HIV-positive in locations where they are less likely to receive an immediate connection to counseling and other services. Local health officials, however, believe they can combine rapid results with effective counseling, even at clubs and bathhouses.
Washington state law requires that counseling be provided before and after an HIV test is administered. But the law is not specific as to precisely what form the counseling should take. And, said Paul Feldman of Seattle's Lifelong AIDS Alliance, "the rules certainly didn't contemplate rapid testing." Feldman said the old test provided time for people to comprehend counseling information and the possibility of a positive result. "Are recipients of positive test results going to be able to internalize the information they've received around the test when they don't have any time to mull the information over?" he asked.
The health department has drafted protocols for using the new rapid HIV test and plans to begin a trial run today at an undisclosed Seattle location. If that goes well, the department will move the test into bathhouses and sex clubs, where it currently offers the slower HIV test to patrons. The tests are conducted in private rooms at the sites, and are administered by health professionals. In the Seattle area, gay men make up 2 percent of the population but 85 percent of the AIDS cases diagnosed between 1983 and 2000, according to public health statistics.
05.30.03; Eli Sanders
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.